Why White Hat?

June 23, 2014
Written by
SendGrid Team
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

Why White Hat?

white hat emailWhite hat senders experience better email deliverability. With 22% of wanted commercial email never making it to the inbox, being a white hat sender can help you beat the odds. So what does it mean to be white hat and why is it the only choice for your business?

What Is White Hat?

A white hat sender’s primary concern is permission. Ask yourself: do I have the recipient’s express permission to send them this email? If the answer to this question is anything other than a resounding “yes!”, a white hat sender will not send that email. The specifics of what it means to have express permission are debatable, and an in-depth conversation on the matter is outside the scope of this article. For our purposes, we need to know just two things:

1.) Permission is context specific.

This means that if someone gives you permission to email them about offers from your website www.luke.com, you do not have permission to email them about offers from your other site, www.jackie.com. This also means that if someone gives you permission to send them your weekly newsletter, it not does mean you have permission to send this person advertisements or notifications.

A white hat sender goes above and beyond simply acquiring permission. A great sender does everything in his/her power to ensure that the mail they are sending is wanted, and provides value to the recipient.

Tip: Make the context of the permission crystal clear. At the point of sign up, prominently display the types of emails a user will receive, and how often they will receive them. Immediately present the new user with email settings that allow them to tell you what kind of messages they want to receive. Establishing a preference center is a great way to do this.

2.) Permission expires.

Just because someone was once interested in your products or your company, does not mean they still are, or ever will be, again. A white hat sender considers every email that is sent to be a renewal of permission to continue sending. If a recipient stops interacting with emails for a prolonged period of time, it should be assumed that permission has been revoked. Luckily, SendGrid helps its users locate and remove unengaged users from their lists by offering tools to help senders track user engagement.

Less Is More

SendGrid is capable of sending as much email as any sender could ever want--tens of millions of messages for a single account in a single day is not a problem for our infrastructure. That being said, would it sound like a good idea to send every address on your hard-earned mailing list hundreds of messages every day? Of course not. What about fifty messages every day? Or ten?

The truth is, that kind of volume would overwhelm your users’ inboxes, annoy your customers, and hurt your brand. Sending fewer emails to people who don’t want them in the first place will save you money. Sending thoughtful messages to people who want to receive them will give your company a reputation for delivering interesting, relevant, and engaging content.

The Dangers of Black Hat

Email marketers have more to worry about than gaining a reputation as an overly-aggressive marketer. These days ISPs are doing everything in their power to ensure their users do not receive unwanted email. They track click and open rates. They know how often their users mark your messages as spam. They even know if a user moves one of your emails from the spam folder back to the inbox.

If you send large amounts of email that never get opened or never get clicked on, your messages can end up going right to the spam folder. If you send messages that are frequently being marked as spam, your sending can be throttled or blocked entirely. If you are sending email to spam traps (mailboxes set up for the sole purpose of receiving email they didn’t sign up for) you can end up on email blacklists that can stop large portions of your mailing list from receiving your emails. Implementing a white hat, permission-based strategy, can help you avoid these deliverability and reputation headaches.

White Hat Simplified

It was my first day at SendGrid when I was introduced to what would become my mantra as an email professional: “Send the right message, to the right person, at the right time, with the right frequency.” It really is that simple. Ensure that you are sending mail to people who have explicitly asked to receive it. Be certain that the message you are sending them is the kind of message they are expecting to receive. Also, be aware of when your users are most engaged with your emails, and send to them at those times. Finally, don’t send a user more messages than they are expecting to get. Three messages in a week that get read through and clicked on are cheaper and more effective than 10 messages in a week that never get opened, or get sent to the spam folder.

Check out these articles for more information:

Email Engagement: How and When You Want it - Carly Brantz

Why Opens & Clicks Are Important to Email Deliverability - Carly Brantz

Proactively Remove Unengaged Email Addresses - Adam DuVander

Influencing Email and Becoming a White Hat ESP: Why We Love M3AAWG -Ryan Harris

Putting Engagement Data to Use--Sunset Policies - Tim Mendt


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